Residential construction rose on a seasonally adjusted basis in December from the year-ago period, despite yearly totals at their lowest level since 1995.

The Census Bureau adjusted annual rate in December increased to $248.5 billion, a 0.7% and 3.8% gain in spending month-over-month and year-over-year. The nonadjusted rate for December fell to $17.8 billion from $20.5 billion in November, but rose from $17.2 billion a year earlier.

Actual housing construction spending for 2011 dipped 1.7% to $244.4 billion, its lowest mark since $228.1 billion 16 years ago. Government residential spending, which includes Section 8 and other public housing projects, plummeted 17% to $8.2 billion last year.

Private residential spending dropped 1.1% to $236.2 billion, including a minute 0.3% increase in new multifamily spending to $14.7 billion. Private single-family spending fell 5.1% to $106.8 billion.

New single-family home sales fell to a record low in 2011 as builders sold just 302,000 homes, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Total construction expenditures of $816.4 billion in December rose on a seasonally adjusted basis 1.5% and 4.3% from month- and year-earlier figures.